Bildungsroman with Distant Nation
by AIDAN FORSTER
-after Cathy Linh Che
In summer, my father spoke German with Ms. Elka.
I learned the word for dream, traume,
slept clumsy in my white bed before the mirror.
& the word for love: Elka’s son
with his tongue in my mouth. Perfect blonde boy
from the city, skin flashlit with all his summers.
When Ms. Elka visited, I poured her water
& brought her cookies on a plastic tray.
I greeted her in what little I knew,
mouth searching for the wounding language.
I didn’t know how to say that I took her son
into my mouth like a river, or that I held
a small lightbox in my chest that flashed
when he touched my hairy inner thigh.
All I knew was escape: to sleep facedown,
dream in a language I could not speak:
a land with no homes, no fathers or women:
a lush swath of forest, its wrens nesting like wrens.